Log Cabin vs Garden Room: What’s the difference? 

Nicola Crawford Garden Room Buyer's Guide, Garden rooms Leave a Comment

Additional space. It’s something we all dream of right?

You love your home but you don’t want the hassle of moving your whole life to another house. Plus the housing market is so MAD right now, that you can’t face the stress of moving. 

Maybe you need a place to master your craft. Or, your family has expanded and you want to create a safe and comfortable place for them to stay and holiday. Or with the current climate maybe you want a place to separate your work from home.

You’ve seen a space in your garden that would be perfect to create that extra space and room for what you want to achieve. You like the aesthetic and feel a timber building gives and think it would look beautiful in your space. You start to consider your options and are faced with – well quite a few. But what one is right for what you want to achieve?

If you’re here – hello sheddie! – it’s likely that you’re looking at your options and you have come across log cabins or garden rooms. 

But what are they? 

What is the difference between them, and why is the cost so different? 

The main difference between a log cabin and a garden room is in the construction, which affects how you best use the building and the price.

So, in this article we’ll cover the main difference between log cabins and garden rooms in terms of use, construction and cost, to help you decide which one is right for you.

Log Cabin vs Garden Room: What are they?

First things first, let’s get to grips with what each of these buildings is so that you know what we are talking about. 

Traditional Log cabin vs Modern Log Cabins: what is the difference?

Let’s start with defining what a log cabin is. There are two variations of this and there’s likely one that pops up in mind for you.

The Traditional Log Cabin

When I think of Log Cabins, I’m thinking of big massive logs linked together, in the middle of nowhere with lots of snow – you know the ones you see in hearty American movies.

Something like this: 

traditional log cabin

These Log Cabins are typically constructed to create a whole space, this can be used for living, working or relaxing in.

These are what we call traditional log cabins and they are rare. No machinery is used to build these cabins. And you’ll typically find them in the Northern Hemisphere in the likes of Canada (hence the cabin surrounded by snow). 

Like this example from Log Homes Canada.

It’s rare to see these beauties in the likes of the UK for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s a very old, traditional building technique that isn’t recognised in modern construction.
  2. The cost and time involved in creating these beautiful structures are likely a labour of love and not for those looking at efficient, practical and regulated construction.

This isn’t what you’ve likely seen on the market – it’s likely been a modern-day log cabin. And so for most of this blog, we’ll be talking about modern-day log cabins. 

The Modern-Day Log Cabin

You’ve been browsing the market and you’ve come across a log cabin that looks something like this:

modern log cabin

Maybe you’re expecting a log cabin to look like this or maybe it was the traditional form. it was the traditional form. But you’re mostly going to see this version of a log cabin online in the UK.

Thick wood with a natural and neat finish – looks something like a really good quality shed or summerhouse. 

These types of log cabins are typically and best used as a Summerhouse. A place to relax in the garden temporarily and mostly during the summer months. 

Often sheddies do try to make these buildings fit for all-year-round use – because it’s perceived to be much cheaper than a Garden room alternative.

And you’ve likely noticed that in the specification of the log cabin –  the timber thickness is anywhere from 40mm to 100mm thick. And thickness = better quality right? Not quite – and so throughout this article we’re going to explore the differences between wall thickness and wall layers that make up the construction of these buildings which will help us all understand what’s best for you.

What is a Garden Room?

A Garden Room is an extension of your home. It sits in your garden, a separate structure away from your house and to the standard as a room in your home. 

For use 365 days a year, 24/7. You can eat, sleep, work and craft from one of these. You can even live in a garden room. They come in various designs and look very modern. 

A garden room protects you from external elements and keeps you dry at all times. You’ll also have a controlled internal climate for comfort – cooler in the summer, and retain heat in the winter.

This is something that is not guaranteed in modern-log cabins, due to the major construction differences between the buildings.

Garden Rooms looks something like this:

Typically look modern and majestic. The GOAT-mode of timber buildings.

As Garden Rooms are for living or working git, they need to meet the Building Control Compliance standards. Standards include health and safety, energy conservation and security.

Modern Log cabins do not have to comply with these standards as they are not built for living in.

So, let’s compare the construction of both builds…

Log cabin vs Garden room: What is the difference in construction?

As we said, the primary difference between log cabins and garden rooms is their construction. Despite the fact that they are often mistaken for each other, they are actually quite different buildings.

So firstly, let’s explore what each of the buildings is, and how they differ in terms of construction. 

Modern Log Cabin construction

So, how is a modern a log cabin built?

Log cabins are constructed using a single-skin, which means there is only one wall in the building. The external wall you see is the same wall you see internally.

The timber used on a modern-day log cabin is machined timber ie. machines cut and plane down the boards to give them their neat look. Afterwards, they go through the typical building manufacturing process.

Usually, they use an 8th of the log which gives a cut of anywhere between 28mm – 100mm in thickness. An interlocking profile is cut into the timbers to lock them together in construction called interlocking log. 

This is important to know because log cabins require no structural framing and is a type of technique used in timber building construction. The structure is formed by the full-length timbers interlocking together and the thickness of the timber contributes to the strength of the structure. 

It looks like this:

interlocking log cabin

There is one layer of timber, with no framing required due to the interlocking technique and thickness of timber to give it strength.

What timber do you build Modern Log Cabins with?

This is where it gets interesting – although thickness of timber has it’s benefits – the type of timber is everything you need to watch out for when browsing the market.

Here’s why:

Typically in the UK, modern-day log cabins are built with low-quality white wood spruce. Usually sourced from the UK itself. 

Why? 

Because it keeps the costs down. It’s much cheaper the buy White spruce from the UK than it is to import redwoods or hardwoods from the Northern Hemisphere.

Why does timber type matter in modern log cabins? 

White spruce from the UK is a fast growing timber grown in a wet climate. Meaning the grains in the timber have not had time to compact and are much wider. This causes the timber to be more exposed to the elements as it makes its way into the grains causing much more movement in the timber, bending and cracking.

It’s like an open wound.🩹

Bringing it back to log cabins – White spruce in UK weather – which changes constantly. Pouring it down one minute, sunny and dry the next. -5 degrees in the morning, 14 degrees in the afternoon. These cause timbers to move. And with white spruce being more exposed to the elements – there’s going to be A LOT of movement. 

What problems does using the wrong timber type cause on log cabins? 

Gaps in the structure, it’s not watertight, and consistent structural issues – and remember the log cabin doesn’t have a frame to support it – it relies on the interlocking timbers to support it. 

Further to that – it can lead on to issues like mould and rot forming at a much quicker pace.

White spruce is not made for the UK climate. 

Structural techniques, timber type, timber thickness and climate are formulaic. A timber type might work better for a structural technique but not the other in a specific climate and so on.

Ideally for this structure to work in the UK climate – manufacturers are best using imported hardwood – which increases the cost of the building substantially. It’s unlikely you’ll find this on the market precisely because of the cost.

Type in “hardwood log cabins in the UK” into Google – you might find a traditional log cabin but not a modern one.

Can you live in a Modern Log Cabin?

In order for an outbuilding to be liveable it needs to meet building regulation standards, and planning permission.

Modern Log Cabins are not recognised in terms of their construction, to be fit for living conditions. However, there’s a more simplified permission called “Hutters” which allows you to build a seasonal hut without a warrant and I suspect that the Modern Log Cabin would be permitted. However, I would always recommend checking with your local council.

It’s not enough for peach of mind, and you won’t be comfortable all year round. A modern-day log cabin is essentially a shed with a single layer of thicker timber, suitable for temporary use and shelter.

Garden Room Construction

Next up is the garden room – which is constructed in a different way from a modern log-cabin.

This is because garden rooms must meet Building Control Standards to be fit for living. Garden rooms are like onions, with lots of layers, and like an onion we need lots and lots of layers.

These buildings must stand the test of time, be suitable living spaces and withstand the elements. You should feel completely comfortable and protected in a building like this.

The garden room market has a LOT of different types of constructions. And not every business is forthcoming with the construction details (can we say FRUS-trating).

A garden room is a heavy investment, costing thousands of pounds. So it’s essential to understand what they are made of so you know what you are paying for.

Please do your research here – check their website, as them questions about the construction, ask them if the building meets building control standards, and check reviews from other customers.

Learn more about Garden Rooms:

I’m going to break down our Garden Room construction for you that will give you an understanding of what to look for when doing your research.

What layers does a Garden Room construction have?

Let’s break it down into its layer parts starting from the external and working our way into the internals:

1. External Cladding

The prime purpose of the cladding is to act as a protective layer from the weather. Remember different timber types work for different climates.

White spruce is not suitable for the UK. We use 19mm Scandinavian Redwood or Siberian Larch in a tongue and groove profile.

You’ll typically find Siberian Larch or Red Cedar cladding on the market.

Red Cedar vs Larch on Garden Rooms

We don’t agree with using Red Cedar to build Garden Rooms. Firstly, Red Cedar is usually grown in unsustainable forests that are not re-planted – cheers America! Red Cedar is also very soft to touch – meaning in transit or manufacturing it can become easily damaged.

Larch, on the other hand, is much more sustainable, often sourced from the Northern Hemisphere. Larch is more dense and can structurally handle transit and the manufacturing process giving you a pristine finish.

Aesthetically Larch also does better than Red Cedar. You’ll find with Cedar that when it rains it gives off a stained look with the moisture. Darker patches in some areas and lighter in others. Larch stays consistent in moisture and greys to a silvery look over time – however you can maintain new look of Larch with a good protective stain. A lot of people like the silvering however, it’s good to have options.

2. Cavity

The cavity is the gap between the cladding and the next stage of layering. The primary role of the cavity is to prevent moisture ingress coming into contact with the internal lining. Moisture cannot jump therefore the cavity ensures the moisture keeps to the external of the building.

No cavity = internal moisture ingress.

Cavities also act as layer of thermal insulation minimising heat transmission from the external walls to the internal walls. And they help with soundproofing, so you can play your drum set as loud as you want.

3. Breather Membrane

As if the cavity wasn’t enough – as an extra layer of protection – garden rooms also have a breather. The breather membrane is a moisture-resistant material between the cavity and the next stage OSB.

The membrane’s purpose is to prevent moisture or any other elements penetrate through to the internals of the building. Extra extra protection.

4. OSB

OSB (Oriented Strand Board) is a sheet of compressed timber, layered in strands together strategically to give it durable strength.

The purpose of OSB is to brace the structure internally. It is used on the walls, roof and floor, but must not be used as an external material. Our OSB is protected by the all the layers discussed above.

You’ll also find plywood used on the market instead of OSB. Plywood is a viable material for bracing the structure but only with thickness.

For example 9mm OSB (which we use) is much stronger than 9mm Plywood. Plywood becomes stronger with layers. 22mm Marine Plywood is much stronger than 19mm OSB.

5. Framing

We spoke about structural techniques before with the log cabins, Garden Rooms use a different structural technique called Stud Frame Wall. Garden rooms use horizontal and vertical frames to brace the strength of the structure. The type of framing used is very important for the integrity of the building and there are variations of this on the market.

At minimum we use 95mm x 45mm pressure-treated C24 graded framing, the same timber used to build a new home.

We don’t recommend anything less than this for a Garden Room as it would not be building control compliant (and therefore not a Garden Room). When doing your Garden Room research – please look for or ask for this detail.

6. Insulation

You should always expect insulation included in a Garden Room and the correct thickness and type of insulation counts for this structure. Again, it’s efficiency must meet Building Regulation Standards.

The two types of insulation suitable for a Garden Room are:

  1. Foil backed rigid board
  2. Wool/fibre bale


Foil backed rigid board insulation offers a higher U-Value (energy efficiency). It can be easily cut down and slotted into framing. However, this result in gaps that need to be taped, and reduce it’s efficiency. Foil-backed rigid board insulation is better suited to a SIPs construction.

Wool/fibre bale insulation is great as it can be compacted into the frame tightly. This gives better overall consistency and most importantly NO GAPS. Insulation is also wrapped in a plastic sheet, which increases it’s energy efficiency (U-Value), and is great for sounf-proofing.

Wool/fibre bales can’t be used on external flooring as they are porous and absorb moisture if not protected correctly. It’s best to use foil-backed insulation on the floors.

We use 100mm Knauff Wool Glass Insulation in our Garden Rooms. And 70mm Ecotherm foil-backed insulation on the floors.

7. Internal Lining

This part is to close the construction off and give you that neatly finished room looks within your Garden room. It’s your internal walls. Typically you’ll find that most manufacturers or suppliers use Plasterboard that gives you that neat, white fresh clean look on the inside.

Another option, which is rare, is a timber-cladded internal structure. You’ll find this is rare because it’s more costly than plasterboard and more costly for you. However, it gives a thicker wall and natural internal finish which can give you a proper cabin feel. It also looks and feels better quality.

We offer both both linings in our Garden Rooms or you can even spice it up and have a mix of both. We find most of Sheddie’s opt for the timber internal finish.

Can you live in a Garden Room?

YES. 

Eat, sleep, work and breathe – you can do it all and be at comfort and protected. The purpose of the layers is to protect you from moisture and give you a climate controlled environment. Whenever you enter this building – it’s an extension of your home – not a garden shed.

As always, permitted development is subject to your own circumstances of; where you plan on placing the building, the overall size of building and whether you want mains water/waste. A competent manufacturer can guide you through all of this.

The thickness of the construction of the layers amount to 165mm. That’s a good bit more than a single-skinned log cabin that doesn’t have the protective elements included. This leads us to the cost differences – you’re already going to have this nailed!

Log Cabin vs Garden Room: How much does it cost?

From what you have learned so far you can only assume that there’s going to be some big differences in pricing here between Log Cabins and Garden Rooms. There is so much more that go into Garden Rooms that make up their structure.

More elements = higher price. 

How much does a log cabin cost?

You’ll find that Log Cabins typically come in under £10,000. Usually between £3,000 – £6,000 depending on size.

That includes your log cabin single skinned structure, doors and single or double-glazed windows.

Double glazing on a log cabin is usually built using the same timber as the structure. Because of this the timber shifts and moisture and condesation gets trapped between the double glazing with no where to go. This can also stimulate rot forming quicker on the framing and replacement needed.

We have experimented with timber-framed double glazing in the past on our Summerhouses and in our experience causes you more problems than its worth. That’s why we keep double glazing to Garden Rooms in UPVC – much more durable and last longer.

You’ll find that modern log cabins can last from 10 years+ – again, all dependent on the timber used. The more problems you have with water ingress, the less it’s going to last.

How much does a Garden Room cost?

Garden Rooms typically start at around £18,000 and can go up to £40,000+ depending on size and the project. With Garden Rooms you’ll typically find that you can have more say on the design of the room – it’s bespoke to you.

These buildings typically come with UPVC Double Glazed Casement windows and doors which are durable, long-lasting and excellent for security meeting Building Control Standards.

You’ll also find additional services such as electrics and basework come under this price bracket. And of course, the construction and materials used in a Garden Room are much more vast than that of the Modern Log Cabin.

Because it is an additional room – this structure adds value to your home. The buildings are made to last a lifetime.

Garden Rooms vs Log Cabins – which is best for you?

Phew – that was a lot to take in, right? 

I’m hoping you have a better understanding of the difference between the Garden Rooms and Modern Log Cabin Structure. They are very different buildings with different purposes.

Modern log cabins are single-skinned, usually around 100mm in thickness. In comparison, garden rooms are constructed using layers to create a structure over 100mm.

Modern Log Cabins need to be able to withstand the UK weather and should be built with hardwood to avoid common moisture issues. Garden Rooms are built for the UK weather by using a layering process and need to be Building Control Compliant.

Modern Log cabins are half the price or less of Garden Rooms and are typically not made for 24/7 365. Garden Rooms are a pricey investment that can be used all year round and add value to your home.

Garden Rooms are made for living. They are the best of the best in the timber building industry and we absolutely love creating these personal and special projects for you. If you are in a position to invest in one of these beauties – whether it be for an office, a creative space, a working space, a living space – you’ll have a lifetime’s worth of comfort and peace at your hands with a Garden Room.

Are you ready to get your Garden Room dreams started?

Book your 45 min consultation with us where we’ll listen to everything you have planned and imagined, answer your questions, view the Garden Rooms we have in our Show Area and discuss the next steps of the project for you.

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